NJ Transit trains canceled Friday over Juneteenth holiday negotiation
NJ Transit had a rough Friday morning with at least 23 trains canceled because of a suspected job action over a proposed new contract with engineers.
In a letter obtained by New Jersey 101.5, NJ Transit warned James Brown, general chairman of the BLE&T (Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainsmen) against a rumored job action on Friday, the state's Juneteenth holiday.
Engineers were expected to work as normal on Friday because BLE&T has not signed the contract in which the Juneteenth holiday is a paid holiday. Union members are still under the terms of their old contract in which Juneteenth is not considered a holiday.
Absences by engineers on Friday were more than 30% higher than usual, according to an NJ Transit spokesman.
According to the NJ Transit Twitter feed that tracks service problems, the Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Line are the most impacted by the cancellations. The Montclair-Boonton, Main Bergen and Raritan Valley lines also had cancellations.
The tweets do not offer an explanation for the service problems. The "Dinky" shuttle to the Princeton Junction station was also not running.
Union leadership encouraged job action?
NJ Transit believed union leadership instigated the job action threat and sent a letter to Brown warning against taking such an “illegal” action. Brown was warned that all engineers were expected to show up to work Friday as scheduled and asked him to relay that message to his members.
A spokesman for NJ Transit said Brown did not respond.
"Please be aware that NJ Transit will not tolerate an unlawful job action and may institute disciplinary action against any employees taking such action. Further, any
encouragement of this unlawful activity by BLE&T leadership will also not be tolerated and may result in disciplinary action," the letter to Brown read.
An NJ Transit spokesman said the cancellation of trains is expected to continue the rest of Friday. He did not know if the job action would continue during the weekend.
Brown told New Jersey 101.5 he had no comment before hanging up the phone.